January 8, 2008
Boracay's environmental problems can be fixed -- Loren
The growing environmental threats to the world-class island-resort of Boracay are grave but "perfectly solvable," Sen. Loren Legarda said.
"The environmental problems there are definitely urgent, in that if left unchecked, these could eventually imperil Boracay's chief source of revenue -- tourism. However, we must stress that these issues can be addressed right away," Legarda said.
"This is simply a question of enforcement and compliance," said Legarda, a pro-environment crusader who authored the Solid Waste Management Act and the Clean Air Act in the 12th Congress.
Legarda made the statement shortly after the Department of Tourism (DOT) warned that Boracay's lively travel and leisure industry, which generates over P10 billion in revenues every year, could sink in the next two years due to uncontrolled flooding.
"We have adequate laws meant precisely to address environmental issues, such as those now being faced by Boracay. The question is whether these statutes are being enforced rigorously," Legarda said.
She singled out the Solid Waste Management Act, which sets national standards for waste management and provides guidelines for volume reduction via minimization measures that include recycling, reuse, recovery and composting before collection, treatment and disposal in suitable dump sites.
The law retains with local governments the primary task of enforcing waste management. However, garbage control projects involving national agencies, the private sector and communities are encouraged.
Under the law, open dumping is to be phased out in favor of sanitary landfills. The open burning of solid waste is banned, and it is illegal to collect non-segregated trash. The law also mandates the phaseout of non-recyclable as well as non-biodegradable consumer packaging materials such as plastic bags, styrofoam and aluminum foil.
"The challenge now is for all agencies and establishments, in Boracay and other parts of the country, to ensure adequate compliance with these regulations," Legarda said.
She added: "It is easy to blame this agency or that sector for Boracay's environmental problems. However, it has become apparent that the island's infrastructures are simply being overwhelmed by the push of foreign and local tourists."
"Thus, we are also counting on the national government to promptly find ways to purposely reinforce Boracay's environmental support infrastructure, not just the island's tourism facilities," Legarda said.
The DOT regional director Edwin Trompeta said heavy rains during the holiday season caused wastewater channels and drainpipes to overflow onto the resort's celebrated white beach.
He said the flooding was the worst experienced on the island, with at least 30 percent of the beach area and a number of commercial districts severely affected.
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